Birthday Cake #3: Milky Way Cake With Caramel Buttercream


I first (and last) made this cake thirteen years ago after seeing the recipe in the now defunct Rosie Magazine. I’m not the hugest Rosie O’Donnell fan but I loved that magazine and was pretty devastated when it ceased publication. Anyway, at the time I wasn’t the most confident baker and the recipe sounded fun and I figured fun would easily overshadow any baking shortfalls I might have.

2002 milky way cake

I thought this was the original Milky Way Cake until my son reminded me that this was actually a Three Musketeers Cake (my riff on the Milky Way Cake recipe). Apparently I didn’t photograph the Milky Way Cake but I’m sure it looked pretty similar.

I had pretty much forgotten about this recipe until my older son asked me to bake it for his 21st birthday last week. I found the recipe posted on Cheat Day Cafe. I tweaked the posted recipe a little in an attempt to make it less cloying and more moist, as well as clarified some finer points of technique; my adapted recipe is posted below.

The icing was pretty soupy, thanks to the day’s heat and humidity. I thought it would be futile to futz with the decorating too much so I kept it super simple — I microplaned some dark chocolate and diced some leftover Milky Way bar for the top.

The cake was still pretty tooth-achingly sweet, which everyone commented on. We discovered that a sliver of cake was an ample serving, even for my boys, who usually help themselves to multiple hunks of birthday cake. Which is not to say we didn’t enjoy it. By Day 2, everyone had taken a shine to it and, provided that the servings were very small, was happy to have a slice. I actually had 4 slivers over the course of one day, beginning at 7am and ending at 9pm. I am not ashamed.

Milky Way Cake With Caramel Buttercream

6.15 ounces Milky Way candy bars (from three 1.84-ounce bars; save the extra for snacking or decorating)
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

14 ounce bag of caramels, about 43 caramels (I used Brach’s Milk Maid Caramels)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups (16 ounces) confectioners sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the cake:  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans (I also line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper trimmed to size, and then grease and flour the parchment). In a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water, melt the cut-up Milky Bar bars with 2 tablespoons of milk. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together until combined. In a mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy on medium-high speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, scraping the bowl after each addition and beat until combined. Add the cooled melted candy bars and beat until combined. On low speed, beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture until not quite combined, then add 1/2 of the buttermilk and continued beating until almost combined. Repeat with another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by the remaining buttermilk, and end with the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Beat until combined, scraping the bowl and paddle to ensure everything is thoroughly incorporated. Pour batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 29 – 31 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Cool completely on wire racks.

To make the frosting: 

In a bowl placed over a pot of simmering water, melt the unwrapped caramels with the 1/2 cup of milk. This will be slow going; it took me about 30 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla, until light and fluffy on medium-high speed. Add the cooled caramel mixture and then beat for an additional 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. You will likely have about a cup of frosting leftover when frosting a two-layer 8-inch round cake.